The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has quarantined three salmon farms near Tofino and Sechelt after traces of a virus known as IHN were discovered during routine tests. Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis (IHN) attacks the fish’s blood and can kill up to 100 percent of an infected population within a week. It also spreads quickly if the affected fish are not removed from the water. To reduce the risk of further infection, the Dixon Bay farm near Tofino has committed to removing and destroying its entire stock of 560,000 salmon. The farm at Bawden Point, however, plans to harvest and process its salmon, as the virus is not harmful to humans who eat the infected fish.
While it is harmless to humans, the effects of IHN on wild salmon stocks have been debated. According to Gary Marty, the fish pathologist for the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, wild salmon have developed a resistance to the virus meaning that “the likelihood that this has any impact on [them] is very, very low.” His opinion, however, is not shared by everybody. The virus’ effects have been questioned by Alexandra Morton, a well-known biologist who has conducted extensive research on salmon populations in B.C. According to Morton, the impacts of IHN vary depending on the strain and stage of the virus, making it difficult to know if and how it is impacting wild salmon. She also noted that the virus can stay active for up to three weeks in seawater, so even though the infected fish are removed from the water, there are still billions of viral particles remaining that could continue to infect wild fish. Furthermore, Morton questions why the farmed fish did not receive the Apex®-IHN vaccine, which is commonly used by salmon farms to prevent the IHN virus. This outbreak has many people in favour of removing these open-net farms from the ocean altogether.
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For information about the Apex®-IHN vaccine.
Today’s post submitted by Interpreter Alex Zwick